Reblog of a post I wrote in 2008. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This post also generated a Part II and Part III
In the light of the David Schuster incident, I had hope that men and women of good will would be able, finally, to sit down and have an open conversation about the enduring and deeply internalized sexism within our society.
What has been particularly frustrating for me, is that when I try to have any kind of discussion with men about sexism in our culture, I honestly feel like I’m speaking a foreign language to them. No matter how I try to get them to try to understand where I am coming from, what my life experience has been, most men, if not all, just don’t get it. Worse, they don’t appear to want to understand. And I am speaking of men who are my friends and closer, solid progressives all.
A defensive wall goes up and I cannot seem to get them to at least acknowledge that my experience and point of view may be valid, or that I may have some legitimate concerns, or to admit that though they may not understand, they are willing to at least listen. Alas, no, because if I even bring it up, somehow I get the feeling that they think I am holding them personally responsible for the misogyny I see, and that I expect them to “fix” it. I hold neither position, but gawd-amighty, I sure would like to be able to at least have the conversation without being told that (a) I’m being too sensitive (b) I’m taking it too personally (c) I’m seeing things that aren’t there.
On a related note, Nicholas Kristof looks at the challenges faced by ambitious women running for, or holding, political office in our democratic age.
When Women Rule (NYT)
In one common experiment, the “Goldberg paradigm,” people are asked to evaluate a particular article or speech, supposedly by a man. Others are asked to evaluate the identical presentation, but from a woman. Typically, in countries all over the world, the very same words are rated higher coming from a man.
In particular, one lesson from this research is that promoting their own successes is a helpful strategy for ambitious men. But experiments have demonstrated that when women highlight their accomplishments, that’s a turn-off. And women seem even more offended by self-promoting females than men are.
This creates a huge challenge for ambitious women in politics or business: If they’re self-effacing, people find them unimpressive, but if they talk up their accomplishments, they come across as pushy braggarts.
The broader conundrum is that for women, but not for men, there is a tradeoff in qualities associated with top leadership. A woman can be perceived as competent or as likable, but not both.